Imaging Devices

Time for a laser all-in-one at home (part 1) - Brother MFC-9330CDW

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Anyone who has ever used an inkjet printer can tell you this: The ink dries out, especially if you print infrequently.

It affects all brands and all inkjet models. Simply because ink is a liquid and evaporates when exposed to air. The ink residue at the nozzles of the ink cartridge dries out first, clogging the nozzles. Because of this, inkjet printers often incorporate a self-cleaning feature to prevent this.

"Factors such as climate and humidity affect the lifespan of the cartridge. For instance, a dry environment with either very warm or very cold temperatures may shorten it," explained Canon Singapore's assistant director, Mr Edwin Teoh.

The only real solution is to use a laser printer, whose ink comes in a dry powder form.

Laser printers used to be so expensive that they made sense to be used only in offices, where the printing volume was high enough to make the initial cost worthwhile.

In recent years, the hardware has become more affordable. A monochrome laser multi-function printer (MFP) can be bought for less than $200 now. Prices have declined the most for colour laser printers. Their average selling price here has slid from $745 to $554 in the past three years, said market tracker, GfK Asia.

And buyers have snapped up these cheaper printers. Canon told Digital Life that the adoption rate of laser colour MFPs has leapt by more than fivefold in the past three years. GfK Asia's figures indicate that unit sales have doubled.

In contrast, sales of single-function laser printers have fallen slightly in the same period.

The move towards multi-function printers is mirrored in other markets. They made up more than 45 per cent of all laser colour printers sold in Asia Pacific in 2011. This number went up to 49 per cent last year, said Gartner analyst, Ms Zalak Shah. She expects such sales to keep growing as the price gap between single- and multi-function models narrows.

Besides being more affordable, the latest colour laser MFPs are likely to come with features which let you print wirelessly from mobile devices.

The five printers - ranging from under $500 to about $700 - in this round-up all have mobile apps for iOS and Android devices.

Brother MFC-9330CDW

As the most expensive model in this round-up by a fair margin, this Brother printer has much to prove. Its specifications certainly look good.

This is an LED printer, which is similar to a laser printer. Its actual print speed is the highest of this lot of printers, at 23 pages a minute (black-and-white and colour). Samsung's Xpress C460FW comes closest at 18 pages for black-and-white printing, but manages only four pages a minute for colour.

The Brother comes with a colour 3.7-inch touchscreen, larger than any on the multi-function printers reviewed here.

It is useful for navigation and control. Understandably, the touchscreen is not as responsive as those found on mobile devices. This can be frustrating when you make a swipe gesture on the screen and nothing happens.

It has a touch-sensitive backlit keypad which lights up when required, such as when you are sending a fax. Except for the power button, all the buttons are touch-based, which makes for a clean look.

The paper tray holds 250 sheets, easily beating its shoot-out rivals whose trays top out at 150. It also has a 35-page auto document feeder.

The MFC-9330CDW supports automatic duplex printing, which, as anyone who has ever used this feature can tell you, is convenient and saves paper.

Wi-Fi Direct is supported - this means you can print directly from a supported mobile device or laptop without connecting the printer to a Wi-Fi network.

Brother's iPrint & Scan app (iOS, Android and Windows Phone 7) does not look snazzy, but it will let you print documents and photos from a variety of sources, including cloud services, such as Dropbox, Evernote and OneDrive.

For offices, this printer has a Secure Function Lock feature, which can restrict up to 25 users from printing in colour.

The Brother MFC-9330CDW produces decent black-and-white print-outs, but its colour prints were far from the best. The bar charts which it printed showed mild banding.

Its black toner costs $95 for about 2,500 pages - the cheapest of the five printers here. However, heavy users will have to factor in the replacement cost of the drum ($185, good for 15,000 pages).


Price: $698

Yield: Up to 2,500 standard pages per cartridge (black) and 1,400 pages per cartridge (colour)

Print resolution: Up to 600 x 2,400 dots per inch

Speed: Up to 23 pages per minute (black), 23 pages per minute (colour)

Tested speed: 23 pages per minute (black), 23 pages per minute (colour)


Features: 5/5

Design: 3/5

Performance: 4/5

Value for money: 4/5

Overall: 4/5

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